Owning a small business these days can have huge challenges associated with it. Just when you put out one fire, another one springs up. You try to find actionable tips to help you operate smarter and leaner, but sometimes the hype just doesn’t translate to anything you can actually use. In one way or another, these five mistakes are probably affecting your business today. Giving them some attention is a proactive way you can make your business better tomorrow.
5 Common Small Business Mistakes
Clumsy customer service tactics – In a tight economy, consumers expect more from their purchases. This can mean more customer service problems for you. If your customer service approach used to get a C-plus grade, chances are its grade has slipped in the last couple of years. This is at a time when one well-placed customer rant can burn up your reputation in cyberspace.
Solution: You can’t make everyone happy, but you can revisit your customer service policies to confirm there’s a consistent, well-thought-out way to treat most of the issues that come up. You can also make sure that your people have the patience and diplomacy necessary to handle this very important job.
Trying to meet every need – When you’re scrambling for sales, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all potential customers. If your salespeople are developing new strategies to make sales, that’s a good thing. If they’re drawing outside the lines when it comes to the truth about a product’s benefits, warranties or availability, that’s a bad thing. It’s also risky to sell so aggressively that quality standards suffer.
Solution: Stick with what you’re good at. When you started your business, you probably knew your target market and had a strategy. Get back to basics, and focus your efforts on what you do best.
Mishandling suppliers – Suppliers provide the life’s blood of your business, the materials necessary to make and market your products, but how much time have you spent lately exploring all the supplier options available to you? Are you currently on C.O.D. with the big suppliers you sourced a few years ago? Those relationships may not be working now.
Solution: You may be able to renegotiate with your current suppliers or find local (or regional) sources to meet your needs. It’s a whole new world out there, and if you haven’t taken a look at your supply chain strategies in the last year or so, you should.
Making Unrealistic Commitments – When times are tough, it’s hard to accept your (temporary) limitations. Telling an employee you may be able to give him a raise in a few weeks may be postponing a problem (and compounding a disappointment) if you aren’t honest. Committing to an unrealistic shipping date is another common overstatement that can backfire. When you can’t meet a deadline, you lose credibility and customer confidence, and that’s a type of currency you can’t afford to squander.
Solution: Make realistic assessments, and be honest with yourself and others. Sugar coating the truth just postpones the inevitable. Look at it this way, if you’re honest and end up performing better than expected, you’ll be a hero.
Being Indispensable – If your business can’t survive a week without you, you’re doing something wrong. In a small business, everyone is important. If your employees can’t get through a day without you, though, you need to make some changes. This isn’t just about freeing up time to have a life outside of work. You need to make your business processes robust enough to survive if you become ill or incapacitated.
Solution: Hire reliable people and cross-train them. Learn to delegate.
If you focus your energies on dealing with these five areas of your small business soon, you’ll be in a better position to tackle future challenges and come out on top.